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anyone else using low watt all tube heads?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by BassGreaser, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I've been using my 55watt all tube Amepg B25B head for all my upright need. I play a 5/20 Stunal with all plain guts and underwood pup straight into the head. I get the best tone from this thing! Anyone else using low watt tube heads?
  2. Gearhead43


    Nov 25, 2007
    It's not that common for Jazz guys, but I have seen quite a few happy all-tubers in the Roots music/rockabilly scene.

    One of the guys I met was using an Underwood into a Bassman 135 and it sounded really nice. Jeff West (Big Sandy) uses a B15 Fliptop and his tone was very nice also. Jimmy (plays with Bowzer) uses his SVT and/or B15 and really likes it for double bass.
  3. Jefenator


    Aug 22, 2008
    I've had good luck with a (60 watt) Sunn 200S. Even better with the Mesa 400 (not exactly low watt).

    IME the all-tube heads deliver a nice, natural musical presence I've not experienced yet with solid state. It's more about the feel than the actual sound IMO.

    I don't mind the weight & bulk too much on the above mentioned units. But a lighter, more compact modern all-tube head would be awesome for Jazz gigs!
  4. I'm using a hybrid Markbass head (TA 503) with 2 tubes in the preamp section and solid state for power section. It sounds really good with the upton RS II, even when it's plugged direct in the head.

    I use a Headway EDB1 as a preamp, because I'm switching from electric bass to upright, and I don't want to have to change settings on the amp. So the amp is set for eletric bass and the Headway is set so that the upright sounds good without changing anything on the amp.
  5. tifftunes

    tifftunes Guest

    If 90 watts is "low watts," then up until last month when I bought a TC RH450, I was using a '72 Traynor YBA1A MkII. Its definitely plug n play!
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Ah, the tube discussion. I've posted on this topic several times. If you're interested in my opinion, go here and follow the links. The bottom line: there's just no good reason to opt for tubes when amplifying the double bass unless you intend to overdrive the circuit to produce so-called "euphonic" tube distortion.
  7. No good reason? The great dynamics? The freshness of the tone?
    Nooo, you just played the wrong tube amps.

    Why does everybody always connect tube with dirt? Have you ever heard of a dirty-sounding hi-fi system? They use tubes too.

    Great example for a very good sounding tubeamp: www.weber-amps.de
  8. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    In my B25B ive had the caps beefed up to handle the massive lowend my bass puts out. To me all tube heads make a peizo pickup sound alot more natural than a SS head will.
  9. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I use 100 watts from an Ampeg V4. Does that count? I was surprised to see you guys were using less than 100 watts, as that even seems to be on the meek side compared to many people here.
  10. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I suspect you didn't read my prior posts to which I linked. Let's see. I own tube amplifiers and have restored vacuum tube circuits for years. I think I know a thing or two about them. I don't "connect tube with dirt." In general, tubes have no specific advantages over modern solid-state circuits in terms of dynamic range. "Freshness of tone?" Now, that's a subjective assessment that would be difficult to tie to objective measures. I'm concerned both with objective measures and, of course, how a piece of equipment sounds. So, consider the distortions: harmonic, IM, TIM. No advantage for tubes. Consider bandwidth, power envelope, overall response (if you consider flat to be better). Here, there's a clear advantage for solid state. So why do some prefer tubes? The answers are different for different applications, but I'll summarize:

    Live recording: Here, the signal can sometimes clip through some amplifier stages. When that happens, the distortion profile of the typical tube circuit can be preferred to that of solid state (even vs. odd harmonics).

    Instrument amplification: Often, especially for electric guitars, one desires to overdrive the circuit. Again, it's the profile of the distortion that is part of the sound produced.

    Hi-fi: In this application, one doesn't wish to overdrive the circuit. It has been shown and known for decades, however, that what tube-lovers find desirable is the frequency response anomalies that come about as a result of the typical interactions between the output transformers typically employed and the loudspeaker. Years ago, Bob Carver did a revealing demonstration when he took the transfer function of a venerable tube power-amp and mimicked it with solid state. "Expert" listeners couldn't tell the difference. In other words, it's in the transfer function.

    When amplifying the double bass, if your goal is clean, powerful, distortion-free amplification, then tubes fall far short of what is achieved via modern solid state circuits which, in general, offer more power, lower distortion, greater reliability, and less weight.

    To be sure, there are some very fine tube circuits and some poor solid state circuits. It's the quality of the design that counts. It is the case, however, that if we are considering well-designed circuits, solid state has the clear advantages. I'll re-state that any preferences you hear when using tubes (and assuming you are not overdriving the circuit) are the result of frequency response anomalies that you happen to prefer.
  11. Wild Rice Chris

    Wild Rice Chris Commercial User

    May 7, 2005
    Palatine, IL
    Rice Custom Guitars, Inc
    I really like playing through my Bassman 135 head and 2x15" cab (1981) and my Ampeg B-15-N (1966). The problem for me is the weight. I'm getting lazy and want to expend my energy playing rather than loading gear. I played a gig about a month and a half ago where I used the Bassman 135 through a pair of Wizzy 10 cabs. Sounded great, but I didn't like schlepping it around.
  12. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    I love my B25! Its clean sound is beautiful, and nothing solid state can recreate the bell like harmonics and natural sounding compression while making a sound this clean. I must say I've never played a gig with my upright through it. I have to try it now!
  13. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    In the 80's I gigged with a B-15 N it sounded great as long as you didn't have to play very loud. After all it's only rated at 25 watts RMS. Then I saw this add on the back of Rufus Reid's Evolving bassist for an amp made by this guy named Walter Woods. I ordered one and it sounded IMHO better than the B-15 and weighed a lot less. They cost around $600.00 then now they cost $2,700.00 and although they are still a great amp there are many other options now. I'm not particularly nostalgic for tube amps. That's just my opinion though.

  14. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Of course it can-- but compression is really a distortion of the waveform. This seems to be another of those anomalies that is sometimes preferred. If you enjoy it, be happy-- many of us strive for amplification without such inherent anomalies and employ compression specifically when we want it.
  15. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    I bought an Ampeg BA115T, which I think is just a tube preamp. I bought it because I only had a Kay reissue electric, and it sounded unbelievable through that amp.

    Then I was able to get an upright, and I've kept the Ampeg. I wasn't crazy about it when the upright had Helicores and then Animas. It was cool, but not great. I tossed around the idea of getting a different amp.

    But I put guts on the upright a few weeks ago and, with an Underwood, it sounds pretty damn nice through the Ampeg. Did a loud blues gig Saturday and there were no problems. And, of course, the Kay sounded gorgeous.

    I've had AIs and GKs and I can't tell a big difference in tube and solid state for bass. I played guitar for 20 years and, yeah, tubes rule. But for bass, I can go either way (although something lighter would be nice).
  16. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I really enjoyed the B-15N, but interestingly enough, I used my Walter Woods MI-100-8 to drive a pair of B-15N Portaflex cabinets a while back and it sounded very warm. Those old portaflex cabinets were definitely part of the equation, perhaps just as much as the B-15's amp was. At the time I was actually playing gigs with the B-15, pickups were so primitive ( The Barcus Berry and Polytone.)
    that no matter how good the bass or amp sounded the PU's were PU.

  17. @drurb
    Nice answer, thank you. I didn't want to question your knowledge, I'm just allergical to generalisations. It just sounded that tubes would not work at all with an acoustic bass.
  18. Another example of great sounding tube amp (in this case a tube preamp): SWR Electric Blue. GK next to it sounds terribly flat and "dead". Markbass solid state amps, on the other hand, comes closer to that warm tube ideal, in my opinion.
    The other thing, however, is how the warm and beautiful tube sound behaves in the band context. Here the more flat and direct sound can be an advantage. It's so complex, really.
  19. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Thanks for this post. It was because I wished not to generalize that I linked to my prior posts. Tube amps can work just fine. I have nothing against their use if one enjoys them. I simply wanted to point out their characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, as I see them.

    You have pointed to a very often cited characteristic of tube sound. That is, the "warmth." Many on the hi-fi end of things have mentioned this as well. That "warmth" can be traced directly to the typical broad peak in the lower midrange that comes about as a result of the interaction between the output transformer and the speaker. It's the primary frequency response anomaly that I posted about earlier. In fact, it was the lack of that "warmth" which, in the early days of solid-state amps led many to reject them. Of course, one can mimic that response with solid-state circuits and that's exactly what Carver did in his demo.

    As for tube pre-amps, that's one place where I think tubes can have an actual advantage. It goes back to overdriving the circuit. If there's one circuit that's likely to be inadvertently overdriven when amplifying an instrument, it's the pre-amp stage. Tubes are more "forgiving" than most solid-state devices when you drive them into clipping. Years ago, in the hi-fi realm, NAD employed a "soft clipping" circuit in their solid state power amps to make their distortion profile more like what would be produced by tubes.
  20. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    on my B25B I brisge both other the channels together and use one for the high end and the other for the lows through two 1x15s and its the best sound I have even gotten and I dont use a preamp before the amp either :)
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